Tag Archives: Sithism



Emperor Palpatine’s first volume deals with the use of emotion to control the Force. He considers anger to be the most potent emotional form. With anger, the Jedi can call upon the Dark Side, harnessing it for great power and destruction. Palpatine teaches that anger and rage, mixed with intelligent control, call upon the Dark Side with a very fine level of control, and can even kill from a great distance.


This second book teaches control, without violence, over the innocent, the ignorant, and ‘all inferiors’. Palpatine’s main philosophy is quoted below:

1) ALL POWER COMES FROM OUTSIDE THE WEAK. The weak have never been known to believe in themselves or in their ability to wield power.

2) THE FACE OF AUTHORITY. The weak live as in a dream. All their thoughts, actions, and urges are governed by the face and the voice that controls this dream. The face and voice they have learned to obey. The face and voice of Authority.

3) THE LAW OF FEAR. A consequence of the first two tenets is that the weak live in fear. The mere suggestion of violence from one in authority is enough to inspire their obedience. How can one who doesn’t believe in his own powers stand against the power of another? It is impossible.

4) THE WEAK DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE FORCE. The Force is the ultimate means to gain authority over the weak. The weak do not understand the Force. The weak do not sense the Force, therefore how can they understand or use the Force? So it is that the weak are at the mercy of those who know and use the power of the Force. The proper use of the Force can inspire awe and obedience in the weak.”


The 48 Laws of Power

The 48 Laws of Power

by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

Law 1

Never Outshine the Master

Always make those above you feel comfortably superior.  In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity.  Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

Law 2

Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies

Be wary of friends-they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy.  They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove.  In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies.  If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.

 Law 3Conceal your Intentions

Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions.  If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense.  Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelope them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.

 Law 4Always Say Less than Necessary

When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control.  Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike.  Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less.  The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.

 Law 5

So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life

Reputation is the cornerstone of power.  Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once you slip, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides.  Make your reputation unassailable.  Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen.  Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations.  Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.

 Law 6

Court Attention at all Cost

Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing.  Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, then, or buried in oblivion.  Stand out.  Be conspicuous, at all cost.  Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious, than the bland and timid masses.

  Law 7

Get others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit

Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause.  Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it will give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed.  In the end your helpers will be forgotten and you will be remembered.  Never do yourself what others can do for you.

 Law 8

Make other People come to you – use Bait if Necessary

When you force the other person to act, you are the one in control.  It is always better to make your opponent come to you, abandoning his own plans in the process.  Lure him with fabulous gains – then attack.  You hold the cards.

 Law 9

Win through your Actions, Never through Argument

Any momentary triumph you think gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory:  The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion.  It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word.  Demonstrate, do not explicate.

 Law 10Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky

You can die from someone else’s misery – emotional states are as infectious as disease.  You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster.  The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you.  Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

Law 11

Learn to Keep People Dependent on You

To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted.  The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have.  Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear.  Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.

 Law 12

Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim

One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of dishonest ones.  Open-hearted gestures of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people.  Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will.  A timely gift – a Trojan horse – will serve the same purpose.

 Law 13

When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest,

Never to their Mercy or Gratitude

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds.  He will find a way to ignore you.  Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion.  He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

 Law 14

Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy

Knowing about your rival is critical.  Use spies to gather valuable information that will keep you a step ahead.  Better still: Play the spy yourself.  In polite social encounters, learn to probe.  Ask indirect questions to get people to reveal their weaknesses and intentions.  There is no occasion that is not an opportunity for artful spying.

 Law 15

Crush your Enemy Totally

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely.  (Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.)  If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out.  More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation:  The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge.  Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.

 Law 16

Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor

Too much circulation makes the price go down:  The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear.  If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, even more admired.  You must learn when to leave.  Create value through scarcity.

 Law 17

Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability

Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to see familiarity in other people’s actions.  Your predictability gives them a sense of control.  Turn the tables: Be deliberately unpredictable.  Behavior that seems to have no consistency or purpose will keep them off-balance, and they will wear themselves out trying to explain your moves.  Taken to an extreme, this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.

 Law 18Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous

The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere – everyone has to protect themselves.  A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from – it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target.  Better to circulate among people find allies, mingle.  You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.

 Law 19Know Who You’re Dealing with – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person

There are many different kinds of people in the world, and you can never assume that everyone will react to your strategies in the same way.  Deceive or outmaneuver some people and they will spend the rest of their lives seeking revenge.  They are wolves in lambs’ clothing.  Choose your victims and opponents carefully, then – never offend or deceive the wrong person.

 Law 20Do Not Commit to Anyone

It is the fool who always rushes to take sides.  Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself.  By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others – playing people against one another, making them pursue you.

 Law 21Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than your Mark

No one likes feeling stupider than the next persons.  The trick, is to make your victims feel smart – and not just smart, but smarter than you are.  Once convinced of this, they will never suspect that you may have ulterior motives.

 Law 22Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power

When you are weaker, never fight for honor’s sake; choose surrender instead.  Surrender gives you time to recover, time to torment and irritate your conqueror, time to wait for his power to wane.  Do not give him the satisfaction of fighting and defeating you – surrender first.  By turning the other check you infuriate and unsettle him.  Make surrender a tool of power.

 Law 23Concentrate Your Forces

Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point.  You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another – intensity defeats extensity every time.  When looking for sources of power to elevate you, find the one key patron, the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come.

 Law 24Play the Perfect Courtier

The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity.  He has mastered the art of indirection; he flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the mot oblique and graceful manner.  Learn and apply the laws of courtiership and there will be no limit to how far you can rise in the court.

 Law 25Re-Create Yourself

Do not accept the roles that society foists on you.  Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience.  Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define if for you.  Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions – your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.

 Law 26Keep Your Hands Clean

You must seem a paragon of civility and efficiency: Your hands are never soiled by mistakes and nasty deeds.  Maintain such a spotless appearance by using others as scapegoats and cat’s-paws to disguise your involvement.

Law 27Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following

People have an overwhelming desire to believe in something.  Become the focal point of such desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow.  Keep your words vague but full of promise; emphasize enthusiasm over rationality and clear thinking.  Give your new disciples rituals to perform, ask them to make sacrifices on your behalf.  In the absence of organized religion and grand causes, your new belief system will bring you untold power.

 Law 28Enter Action with Boldness

If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it.  Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution.  Timidity is dangerous:  Better to enter with boldness.  Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity.  Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.

 Law 29Plan All the Way to the End

The ending is everything.  Plan all the way to it, taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that might reverse your hard work and give the glory to others.  By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop.  Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.

 Law 30Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless

Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease.  All the toil and practice that go into them, and also all the clever tricks, must be concealed.  When you act, act effortlessly, as if you could do much more.  Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work – it only raises questions.  Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you.

 Law 31Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards you Deal

The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice:  Your victims feel they are in control, but are actually your puppets.  Give people options that come out in your favor whichever one they choose.  Force them to make choices between the lesser of two evils, both of which serve your purpose.  Put them on the horns of a dilemma:  They are gored wherever they turn.

 Law 32Play to People’s Fantasies

The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleasant.  Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes for disenchantment.  Life is so harsh and distressing that people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are like oases in the desert:  Everyone flocks to them. There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses.

 Law 33Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew

Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall.  That weakness is usual y an insecurity, an uncontrollable emotion or need; it can also be a small secret pleasure.  Either way, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

  Law 34Be Royal in your Own Fashion:  Act like a King to be treated like one

The way you carry yourself will often determine how you are treated; In the long run, appearing vulgar or common will make people disrespect you.  For a king respects himself and inspires the same sentiment in others.  By acting regally and confident of your powers, you make yourself seem destined to wear a crown.

 Law 35Master the Art of Timing

Never seem to be in a hurry – hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself, and over time.  Always seem patient, as if you know that everything will come to you eventually.  Become a detective of the right moment; sniff out the spirit of the times, the trends that will carry you to power.  Learn to stand back when the time is not yet ripe, and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition.

 Law 36Disdain Things you cannot have:  Ignoring them is the best Revenge

By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence and credibility.  The more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him; and a small mistake is often made worse and more visible when you try to fix it.  It is sometimes best to leave things alone.  If there is something you want but cannot have, show contempt for it.  The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem. 

Law 37Create Compelling Spectacles

Striking imagery and grand symbolic gestures create the aura of power – everyone responds to them.  Stage spectacles for those around you, then full of arresting visuals and radiant symbols that heighten your presence.  Dazzled by appearances, no one will notice what you are really doing.

Law 38Think as you like but Behave like others

If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention and that you look down upon them.  They will find a way to punish you for making them feel inferior.  It is far safer to blend in and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.

Law 39Stir up Waters to Catch Fish

Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive.  You must always stay calm and objective.  But if you can make your enemies angry while staying calm yourself, you gain a decided advantage.  Put your enemies off-balance: Find the chink in their vanity through which you can rattle them and you hold the strings.

Law 40Despise the Free Lunch

What is offered for free is dangerous – it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation.  What has worth is worth paying for.  By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit.  It is also often wise to pay the full price – there is no cutting corners with excellence.  Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.

Law 41Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes

What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after.  If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them.  Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making:  Establish your own name and identity by changing course.  Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way.

Law 42Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep will Scatter

Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individual – the stirrer, the arrogant underling, the poisoned of goodwill.  If you allow such people room to operate, others will succumb to their influence.  Do not wait for the troubles they cause to multiply, do not try to negotiate with them – they are irredeemable.  Neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them.  Strike at the source of the trouble and the sheep will scatter.

Law 43Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others

Coercion creates a reaction that will eventually work against you.  You must seduce others into wanting to move in your direction.  A person you have seduced becomes your loyal pawn.  And the way to seduce others is to operate on their individual psychologies and weaknesses.  Soften up the resistant by working on their emotions, playing on what they hold dear and what they fear.  Ignore the hearts and minds of others and they will grow to hate you.

Law 44Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect

The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy.  The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact.  By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson.  Few can resist the power of Mirror Effect.

Law 45Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once

Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit.  Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt.  If you are new to a position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of respecting the old way of doing things.  If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past.

Law 46Never appear too Perfect

Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses.  Envy creates silent enemies.  It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable.  Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.

Law 47Do not go Past the Mark you Aimed for; In Victory, Learn when to Stop

The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril.  In the heat of victory, arrogance and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed for, and by going too far, you make more enemies than you defeat.  Do not allow success to go to your head.  There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning.  Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop.

Law 48Assume Formlessness

By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack.  Instead of taking a form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move.  Accept the fact that nothing is certain and no law is fixed.  The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order.  Everything changes.


Sithism is like this

(A poem from a few weeks ago.)

There are those who see us as evil
draped in shadows & night veils.

I cannot recognize their empty faces.

There are those who see us as good
a dark mirage that phoenixes into angelic light.

I cannot translate or understand their dead tongue.

Both are names without being.
But I walk along this ocean shore
whose tides have turned to bright blood waves
I am lost here and my soul is married to this new fire.

My heart incenses love’s wakefulness
as my breath is a war dirge
born between stars.

All laws of God & man are broken potter’s shards at my feet.
And I take my first gulp of pure cold air.

Gazing upon the ocean foam & ancient crags
I know I am not alone……I never have been.

How many others, I wonder, have broken bread
with this same moment?
How many oceans have we all seen like this?
How many ….like this?

At last, I grasp my sword in hand
& begin the journey to where
I remember the rumors
of the ancient war.
– Seti I Shadim

Wisdom of Darkness & Light

 Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Sidious:


“The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” -Darth Sidious

“The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.” —Darth Vader

“If one is to understand the great mystery, one must study all its aspects. Not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi. If you wish to be a complete and wise leader, you must embrace a larger view of the Force.”   -Darth Sidious


“Oh no, my young Jedi. You will find that it is you who are mistaken … about a great many things.” – Emperor Palpatine

“You must break through the fog of lies the Jedi have created around you. Let me help you to know the subtleties of the Force.”
                                                                  -Darth Sidious

“Young fool. Only now, at the end, do you understand. Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side. You have paid the price for your lack of vision.” -Darth Sidious

Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn:


“Don’t center on your anxiety, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration on the here and now where it belongs… Be mindful of the

living Force, my young Padawan.”

“The ability to speak does not make you intelligent. “

“You are much wiser than I am, Obi-Wan. I foresee you will become a great Jedi Knight.”

Sith Psychology 101 By Wil McCarthy

 Wow. We’ve been watching Star Wars for 28 years now, believing it was the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. But here at the end (or rather, the middle), we find it was the Tragedy of Darth Vader all along. Poor Anakin, snared by the Dark Side like a tiger in a tar pit! The apocryphal Darth Vader blog offers a glimpse of how Vader himself feels about all this, but it leaves the most important question unanswered: If there was good in him all along—a remorseful Anakin struggling to escape from that foul, black shell—why did it take so long to find its expression? What exactly is the Dark Side, that is has such power over such an otherwise strong-willed person?

To answer this question, we first have to acknowledge that there are different kinds of badness. In order of severity we have cowardice (not helping others for fear of getting hurt), indifference (not helping even when it costs you nothing), greed/entitlement (harming others in order to help yourself), vengeance (harming others to punish them for past wrongs) and malice (harming others for sport or to relieve frustration). With all due respect to Pope Gregory I and his seven deadly sins, I’ll classify envy, lust and gluttony as forms of greed.

All of these traits are natural, occurring throughout the animal kingdom, but in the modern world we define “evil” as a surrender to these animal temptations. We all understand this, and to a certain extent we excuse and even admire it. It’s all in the terminology: Is the man who runs from danger a coward or a survivor? Is the do-nothing bystander prudent or negligent? Is the business mogul a robber or a builder, the rock star a bold hedonist or a sloppy drunk?

It’d be nice to think that malice, at least, was inexcusable in polite society, but remember Grant Williams as The Incredible Shrinking Man? Once he got small enough, his own darling kitty saw him as an animate cat toy, and he barely escaped with his life. Reality bears this out; captive large cats do sometimes maim or kill their owners—either by accident or by deliberate attack, as magician Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy discovered the hard way. In most U.S. states it’s illegal to keep tigers without a license for this reason: When you get right down to it, they’re among the most selfish, hedonistic and potentially malicious creatures on the planet. And we love them for it. Conversely, someone who always takes risks is called a maniac or a fool. Someone who always helps others is called a chump. Someone who gives all her money away is broke and powerless, an easy mark, and if there isn’t a mean bone in her body, she’ll also be accused of having no sense of humor.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad there’s good in the world, and we could certainly use more of it. But when Capt. Kirk’s anger and appetites were torn away in a transporter accident, all he could do was act smarmy and fret in his chair while his crewmates froze to death on the planet below. Without a touch of malice, of lust and greed and wrathful vengeance, we’re all like that: useless and doomed. And this, of course, is the real problem with evil: It exists in all of us. Quick, easy and seductive, it’s as much a part of our life support system as breathing and eating. Emperor Palpatine is right: Anger really does make us strong.

B-b-b-bad to the midichlorians

But where exactly are the roots of evil? What causes it to simmer quietly in one person and blossom tragically in another? One possibility is fate. Genetic destiny. Are some people simply born bad? If Anakin is the Chosen One, conceived by the microscopic midichlorians for their own purposes, then was he simply doomed from the outset? Maybe. Genetic disorders like double-Y chromosomes certainly do have a huge effect on violent behavior, and stupid people commit more violent crimes than smart people do. But smart people commit more white-collar and institutional crime, and since criminals like that are less likely to be caught and convicted, there’s no good way to measure who, in the end, does more harm. Overall, stats on the biological and adopted children of criminals suggest that heredity accounts for about 25 percent of criminal behavior. I.e., if you clone a criminal, the clones will have criminal tendencies as well, and about a quarter of them will give in to the urge.

Still, the other three quarters won’t, and herein lies a mystery. What governs the outcome? No one really knows, but a number of models have been proposed, which I’ll summarize here in my own words. The karma model insists that bad environments beget bad people. Abuse or neglect your kids, and you’ll end up with abusive, neglectful adults. Steep people in a blighted environment of crime and ugliness, and they’ll respond in kind. Did Anakin’s childhood as a slave amid the scum and villainy of Mos Eisley seal his adult fate? Did watching his mother die force him, in some way, to become a killer himself? The scientific answer is no; when the children of law-abiding parents are adopted into criminal families, only about 12 percent of them turn to crime, vs. 10 percent for children raised in noncriminal households. Interestingly, when the children of criminals are raised by other criminals, their arrest rate jumps to nearly 40 percent. This suggests that bad environments have little effect on naturally good people, but dramatic effects on naturally bad ones.

This makes a certain sense, but it also implies that people are machines, incapable of making rational choices. Is all human behavior—and, by implication, all of history—predetermined? Economists tend instead to favor the self-interest model, arguing that people are rational agents who constantly and unconsciously solve math problems in our heads. This might sound far-fetched, but in fact a handful of simple rules can lead to all sorts of rich and complicated behavior. Armed with an innate sense of supply vs. demand and risk vs. reward, people really are pretty good at recognizing a good deal when they see one. Crime can be an economic decision: Stealing offers wealth without hard work, while violence instills fear in potential squealers or competitors. According to economics, it’s only the chance of getting caught and punished that keeps us all from being criminals.

Certainly, after experiencing both the dark and light sides of the Force, Anakin Skywalker was in a good position to make an economic judgment. Is the Dark Side more powerful? The Sith lords have sworn it is, and since a handful of them were able to kill off all the Jedi and seize control of an entire galaxy—twice!—their claim does carry some weight. Then again, the love of a single Jedi was enough to topple the empire, so I’d call it a draw. Anyhoo, no one disputes the fact that the dark side is easier to master, and from an economic standpoint this makes it a good investment. Equal power for less work, right?

But by this logic, we should all be evil. The argument fails to account for empathy—the desire not to harm. In the real world, torturers often report feelings of pain and remorse, which they resolve (or at least sublimate) by getting angry at their victims. “How dare you put me in this position? I don’t like doing this. Just talk, damn you!” In the Star Wars universe, this anger feeds the Dark Side and increases the power of the Sith. But it’s costly in terms of manpower (I mean, how many admirals can you strangle in a month?), and it makes the Sith philosophy—however lofty in principle—hard to agree with in practice. For most people, no power is worth that price.

Crime is still a choice

Which brings us to the nobility model. Ever since a 1940 treatise by mathematician John von Neumann, a field of science called game theory has been exploring the gray area among probability, economics, behavioral psychology and computer science. By studying the behavior of players in certain carefully constructed games, scientists have learned that most people—close to 80 percent—will act against their own best interest if it benefits a group of people they identify with. In a world where only the fittest survive, people are even willing to pay the ultimate price—laying down their lives—to serve the greater good. This is obviously not a survival trait for the individuals who die, but groups or societies who behave this way have a huge advantage over those who don’t. In a fair fight the smart money is on courage and honesty, not cowardice or cheating, and over thousands of years this should tend to breed bullies and cheaters down to a manageable level. Unfortunately, it’s possible to be brave, honest and evil. Like the Nazis, the Sith believe their cause is noble, and the Jedi are simply too weak to pursue it. So nobility doesn’t fully explain the ratios of Sith and Jedi among us.

For that, we can look to the free will model, which insists that everything is a choice. Yes, we feel temptation. Yes, we feel anger, see economic advantage, occasionally feel like screwing over our fellow man. So what? The choice is still ours, to give in or stand firm. There’s actually not much science to support this idea, but most people seem to believe it on a gut level. Like religion, our justice system is balanced on the twin pillars of responsibility and redemption; if crime is a choice, then it should be possible to turn people away from it, encouraging a life of virtue no matter how far they’ve strayed. Unfortunately, even after lengthy “rehabilitation,” about 70 percent of violent criminals are arrested for new offenses within three years, and some percentage also presumably commit crimes but aren’t caught. If free will exists, clearly a majority of criminals are simply evil by choice.

But this model doesn’t seem to apply to Darth Vader, who protests to Luke that he doesn’t have any choice in the matter. The Dark Side empowers, but also commands, removing (or at least blunting) the free will of those who surrender to it. We might call this the demonic possession model. “The devil made me do it, I’m not responsible for my actions, and no forgiveness or redemption is necessary if the evil inside me can simply be expelled.” On the face of it this may seem a rather medieval notion, but in fact the modern world recognizes intoxication, addiction, mental illness and even temporary insanity as limiting our capacity to gauge right and wrong, or to control our behavior. Under some circumstances, we really can commit evil acts for which we’re not legally or morally responsible. Does Anakin deserve the benefit of the doubt here?

Probably not. Ben and Yoda may have welcomed him to Jedi Heaven at the end of Episode VI, but Anakin’s still a serial killer, and the families of his victims deserve better justice than that. Even if the devil made him do it, even if he had a rough childhood and a wonky genome and fell in with a bad crowd, even if the opportunity looked promising and the cause seemed righteous … no one forced him to pick up that red saber and open his heart to murder and oppression. Ultimately, whether science can prove it or not, there is one Force we all believe in: the power to choose between right and wrong.

Sources:Personal Interview: Steven L. Lopata, former large cat handler, Safari Park, Greenbriar ARFarinato, Richard: “Love Does Not Conquer All When it Comes To Big Cats as Pets,” “The Whims and Dangers of the Exotic Pets Market,” The Humane Society of the United States

Gottfriedson, Michael R. and Hirschi, Travis: “A General Theory of Crime,” Stanford University Press, 1990

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/crimoff.htm#recidivism

Shermer, Michael: “The Science of Good and Evil,” Owl Books, 2005

Wikipedia: (“Evil,” “Sith,” “Ultimatum Game”): http://www.wikipedia.org

The Internet Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com)

The Encyclopedia Britannica, 2004 Edition (“recidivism”)

Wil McCarthy is a rocket guidance engineer, robot designer, nanotechnologist, science-fiction author and occasional aquanaut. He has contributed to three interplanetary spacecraft, five communication and weather satellites, a line of landmine-clearing robots and some other “really cool stuff” he can’t tell us about. His short writings have graced the pages of Analog, Asimov’s, Wired, Nature and other major publications, and his book-length works include the New York Times notable Bloom, Amazon “Best of Y2K” The Collapsium and, debuting this month, To Crush the Moon. His acclaimed nonfiction book, Hacking Matter, is now available in paperback.